Sunday, 27 March 2016

Look out for stag beetles in Mayow Park from May to July

With summer approaching, I am keeping an eye out to protect stag beetles and their larvae in Mayow Park. In May, June and July stag beetles will start to emerge from decaying wood under the ground where they have been tunnelling through as larvae.

Mayow Park has been a hotspot for these magnificent creatures but numbers have declined in recent years through a number of factors including damage to their habitat, being dug up by predators, caught by cats and crushed by cars on our roads. They are clumsy flyers and end up falling to the ground. 
Male stag beetle (lucanus cervus) from London Wildlife Trust
London wildlife Trust has an advice note about stag beetles (lucanus cervus)

These creatures are detrivores, eating their way through decaying wood and helping to create new soil. The larvae bore through decaying wood  underground for up to seven years before changing into the stag beetles that we all recognise. You can tell them from similar looking larvae: lesser stag beetle larvae feed on decaying wood above ground and cockchafer larvae live on living roots.

The PTES charity has produced an ID guide to different, but similar-looking larvae

stag beetle larvae in their characteristic curled pose
The female stag beetle looks similar to the lesser stag beetle (dorcus  parallelipipedus) as they both have pincer-like jaws that can nip your finger. Significantly it is all black where lucanus cervas is a dark-brown/ black.  Dorcus is far more widespread and can be found across England and Wales.
Stag beetles  are protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. They are classified as a priority species in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.

Here a summary of  information from London Wildlife Trust

 How to spot a stag beetle 
·         You are most likely to find a stag beetle near or on dead wood
·         It's between 5cm and 8cm long
·         It's got large antler shaped jaws
a)     The male's jaws are very large
b)    The female's jaws are smaller but more powerful
·         Adults emerge from the soil beneath logs or tree stumps from mid-May til late July
·         Males are often seen flying on sultry summer evenings an hour or two before dusk

So let's all be aware of these special invertebrates and help them to thrive once more in Mayow Park.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Bat Walk 2nd April 2016

We don't know if there are bats in Mayow Park but the old oaks have plenty of potential bat roosts. Join us to find out. Do let us know if you hope to be there; it will  help the walk leader manage the sharing out of bat monitoring equipment.

Friday, 11 March 2016

The orchard - photos taken on a sunny day

The day following our orchard planting was a better day for photos. These two photos show a mix of our trees planted in 2012 and the new ones, with the shiny new guards, planted yesterday.
We have five tree adopters (of which two are families) who will look after these trees for the next three years. In the future, park users will be able to join in harvest celebrations for the community orchard in Mayow Park.

Expanding the orchard - part 2

We gathered at the orchard to plant more trees on 5th March 2016  - in the rain.  Members of the Friends of Mayow Park  brought wheelbarrows with our four apple trees, still in their containers, ready to be planted.
But apples really don’t like very wet ground. The ground round the orchard had become extremely soft after a very wet winter and we had quite a task to find spaces that were a little less muddy on this heavy clay soil. 
When we planted the original orchard trees back in January 2012 the site seemed ideal with its gentle slope from the south side downwards towards the main park. Over the last couple of years however the soil surface has changed due to excess rain.
Ryan from the Urban Orchard Project brought the cherry, the quince and the autumn olive. He brought spades, tree guards, stakes and hard hats. We were ready to dig and the rain stopped for a while. The damp weather had put off some people but we had enough volunteers to make this a fun event.

Finding the best place for the Core Blimey apple tree

Sue checked the hole she had just dug

More hole digging 
Ryan explained about planting with the graft union above the soil.
Holes were dug, trees were planted and it was time to put in the stakes. Notice the stylish hard hats to prevent any head injuries when the stakes were driven into the ground.
Will, Lucy and Ryan work out the best place for the stake

Lucy and Will hammer in the stake. This is a job for tall people!

Jon hammers down a stake

Jon checks the height of the stake against one of the tree guards
The next step was to attach the tree guards to the stakes. Ryan in his hi-vis jacket and hard hat demonstrated  on one tree while we looked on. Then everyone went to the other trees to attach guards to stakes. 
We stopped for a tea break with biscuits, pitta bread, houmous and crisps. The youngest  little people among our group enjoyed that!  Glendale (the company that manages the park on behalf of Lewisham) had kindly allowed us access to the cabin at the bowls green where we could make the tea.
Ryan demonstrating putting up a guard. View  across park to the flats beyond.
When the stakes were in, every tree was given a deep blanket of mulch. 

Mulch has an important role to play in an orchard:
It suppresses weeds which might otherwise compete with tree roots for nutrients
It provides a visible reminder to gardeners not to mow or strim too close to the trees
It keeps the soil from drying our too quickly in the summer, 
It enables water to filter slowly down to the roots, 
As fungi rot down the mulch, they help nutrients to go down to the tree roots
Saffron and Lucy fixing the guard to the stake

Task completed

The rain returned, mixed with hail and we beat a hasty retreat. Photos of the completed orchard had to be taken the following day.  

Monday, 7 March 2016

expand the orchard - March 2016 part 1

We were about to plant six more fruit trees and one bush to add to the eleven other fruit trees planted in January 2012 in the Mayow Park community orchard.
 It was time for a brief reflection back to the original orchard idea and how the orchard has developed  over the past four years. 
Before the original planting on the site there had been no fruit trees. Lewisham Council Greenscene had supported FOMP to create a new orchard and helped us to select the most suitable site in the park. We worked with the London Orchard Project (which has since become the Urban Orchard Project) to choose trees and we gathered sponsors from the local community.

Choosing the site - a slope for good drainage, sunshine, space between existing trees
Newly planted fruit trees in January 2012, carefully mulched and protected by tree guards
Back to the present - March 2016.
Planning began in autumn 2015 when it was agreed among FOMP members that we would plant four more apple trees already acquired and in containers. We chose the date, 5th March 2016, in anticipation that the worst of the winter would be past. 

Having been in contact with the Urban Orchard Project about our plans, we found that the Mayow Park orchard could be part of a national initiative called ‘Helping Britain Blossom’. This is a partnership between the Urban Orchard Project (UOP), Heineken and Bulmers. Rather than planting four trees it was suggested we have six or seven. And so we decided to add a quince, a cherry and an Autumn Olive (Eleagnus Commutata).

Planning was under way. Lewisham Council Greenscene gave approval and Lewisham’s tree officer visited to check the site. We are grateful for their help and support in developing an orchard for the community.  Glendale, (who manage most of the parks in the borough), also supported this expansion.

The weather forecast was for a rainy day, but the planting would have to go ahead anyway.
Yet the morning began fine and sunny, a clear sky. We could but hope that it would continue. Alas, change came and by the time we gathered to prepare tools and trees the rain had come. A quick dash home was needed for some of the group, to get waterproofs and Wellington boots.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

Mayow Park orchard planting

Six more trees will be planted. Come and join us on 5th March

Planting in Mayow community orchard 5th March 2016

Come along to the Mayow Park orchard, opposite the tennis courts, on Saturday 5th March 2016.
The Friends of Mayow Park will be working alongside the Urban Orchard project to add six more fruit trees to the orchard planted in January 2012. This will bring the total number of fruit trees to seventeen. Over the next decade these trees will mature and provide a great orchard for the community to enjoy

We are looking for individuals and families to adopt and care for each of the new trees, particularly during the spring and summer. No experience is necessary as we can show you what to do. Key maintenance activities include watering regularly, weeding and mulching  and children enjoy lending a hand with these tasks. And of course there is the bonus of fresh fruit!
Here are some reasons for having an orchard in our park:

  • Trees help with carbon reduction by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and the orchard trees will be in the park for many years
  • Providing additional fruit trees in the park will help nature conservation, particularly as the orchard matures
  • Through our work sessions open to park users, the community will be able to learn skills for managing fruit trees including pruning, mulching and checking tree health